Three men have been found guilty of murder after setting fire to 26 litres of petrol in the basement of a shop in Leicester.
Aram Kurd, Arkan Ali and Hawkar Hassan killed five people with the blaze and were also found guilty of conspiracy to commit insurance fraud, as they had hoped to benefit from a £330,000 insurance payout.
On 25 February, the fire tore through a Polish supermarket and two-storey flat on Hinckley Road.
Mary Ragoobeer, 46; her two sons Shane, 18, and 17-year-old Sean and Shane’s 18-year-old girlfriend Leah Beth Reek were killed in the blast, along with Viktorija Ljevleva, 22. Several others were injured.
The investigation into the men led police to trawl through over 700 hours of CCTV footage, and examined more than 2,500 exhibits, 1,000 witness statements and 4,000 different lines of inquiry.
Leicestershire Police said shopkeeper Kurd, who gave an account to the media after the blast, “probably felt there was a need” to tell his story in a deceitful bid to cover his tracks.
Speaking of the explosion itself, Detective Chief Inspector Michelle Keen, who led the investigation, said: “The evidence we have identified is that this was a significant amount of petrol - significant such that it caused that level of devastation and five people lost their lives.”
Describing the CCTV evidence, Keen continued: “We know there were acts of planning - we don’t know whether they knew about the cameras.
“Certainly some cameras were moved in an attempt to avoid detection but we will never truly know what was in their mind as they haven’t told us.”
Keen added that the motive behind the killings “seem[ed] to be purely financial greed and personal gain”.
“The intention was to claim against an over-inflated insurance policy for business interruption and contents,” she said.
“There was significant investment into the shop’s set-up and it is evident that it wasn’t as profitable as expected. This led to the subsequent fire and explosion.”
Disturbing police bodycam footage shown to the court showed a casualty, Thomas Lindop, under the rubble with a severe head injury.
He had been walking by the shop at the time of the blast and suffered a traumatic brain injury and fractures to his skull, head, pelvis and spine, leaving him in hospital for around three months.
During the trial, families of those who died were in tears as they heard cries for help on some of the footage shown to the court, including teenager Scotty Ragoobeer, who survived the explosion in what the prosecution described as a “miracle”.